Raspberry Bakewell Cake

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The thing that can make foreign foods inaccessible is when it has names that give no indication as to what is inside of it. What is a Cornish pasty? What is a Gur cake? What is a Bakewell tart?

My first taste of a Bakewell tart, a traditionally English confection, was actually in Ireland. My Connemara day tour took a pitstop at Kylemore Abbey where I had a light bite at the attached cafe. I was intrigued by all the mouthwatering treats on display, but wanted to try something outside of the scone box. My eye was drawn to the Bakewell traybake, primarily because it had a sticker next to its label indicating that it was the winner of a local baking competition. They were squares with a dense, powdery-looking yellow filling on a crust, topped with caramelized sliced almonds. I took a gamble, and gave that a try, even though I’ve found that my mileage tends to vary with non-chocolatey, fruit/nut-based desserts.

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Bakewell tart from Kylemore Abbey

Upon tasting it, it felt like a blast from the past. It tasted so familiar, yet I’ve never had a Bakewell tart before. I eventually realized that I was thinking of raspberry thumbprint cookies, which have the exact same almond-raspberry flavor profile but just in a different format. The frangipane filling (equal parts butter, sugar, and almond flour) was crumbly and almost shortbread-like, which was such a fascinating texture for me.

Ergo, I had to replicate this at home. I did some research, and I decided that before venturing into a full-on tart with a pastry crust, I would make a cake version of it. The cake version doesn’t have as much of a shortbready texture that I enjoyed so much, but as you can see, it still is a little more crumbly than it is cakey.

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I did make some tweaks to the BBC recipe I referenced: I used raspberry jam since I wanted a truer Bakewell flavor and texture, and was worried about a soggy cake. I also added lemon zest since I saw that in a few other recipes, and I felt that the recipe with the jam substitution was a little too sweet and could be cut with some citrus.

Several reviewers replaced the vanilla essence with almond extract, and I think that was a smart choice. Another swap I made was to use half cake flour and half all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and a 1/2 tsp salt in place of the recommended self-raising flour. I learned that flour in the UK tends to be a little softer (i.e. less protein content) than flour in the US, so I wanted to make sure the cake retained a tender crumb. However, if all you have is all-purpose, I don’t think the cake will suffer very much at all.

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Raspberry Bakewell Cake
Adapted from BBC
Makes an 8 inch round cake

140g ground almond
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g granulated sugar
140g self-raising flour (or 70g all-purpose flour + 70g cake flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt)
2 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
Zest from 1 lemon (optional – if using, reduce salt in flour to 1/4 tsp)
3 tbsp or 65g raspberry jam (I just used as much as needed to spread a thin layer)
2 tbsp or 16g sliced almonds

1. Heat oven to 180C/355F and grease an 8 inch cake pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then mix in almond, flour, eggs, lemon zest (if using) and almond extract until well combined.
3. Spread half the mix over the cake pan and smooth over the top. Spread the raspberry jam onto the cake mixture, then dollop the remaining cake mixture on top and roughly spread – you might find this easier to do with your fingers.
4. Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 50 mins until golden. Cool and remove from the tin.

Austrian Raspberry Shortbread Bars

I was personally a little bit suspect about the name of this recipe. What’s so Austrian about raspberry jam and shortbread? I guess it’s a variation of a traditional raspberry shortbread cookie, but raspberry jelly and shortbread is such a ubiquitous combination that I wouldn’t even think it was Austrian in origin. I guess you could say that their product has now been genericised!

This recipe is a riff on traditional raspberry jelly and shortbread biscuits usually offered during Christmas, because it appears in a bar form instead of cookie form. If you think stamping cookies is time-consuming and would like to cut back on effort by resorting to this recipe, let me warn you that this recipe would only reduce your effort if you had a food processor. I do not own one. In order to achieve the airy, crumbly crust, I had to grate a big ball of frozen dough by hand. It took some elbow grease, for sure.

Still, the fruits of my labor were much appreciate. These cookies were really delicious. Grating the shortbread gave it a fluffy and crumbly airiness, which gave some lightness to what would have otherwise been a dense and buttery shortbread. The shortbread could’ve used some brightening from lemon zest, which I unfortunately didn’t have. I also imagine that the raspberry jelly would do really well with a dash of Austrian 80-proof Stroh rum. It also looks so pretty; the scarlet red of the raspberry jelly poking through the crumbly shortbread. No wonder it’s such a common festive season staple.

Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 9×9 square pan

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp vanilla or lemon extract
1/2 cup raspberry jam, at room temperature
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.

Mix the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter and egg yolk mixture and mix just until incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight (or as long as a month, if you like).

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper or greased aluminium foil, with an inch overhang. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it by hand or with the grating disk in a food processor into the bottom of the pan. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough.

With a piping bag with a wide tip or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off, squeeze the jam over the surface as evenly as possible, to within 1/2 inch of the edge all the way around. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface.

Bake until lightly golden brown and the center no longer wiggles, 50 to 60 minutes. As soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife. Chill the pan in the fridge before cutting to get clean slices.

P.S. Here’s a GIF of the bars, sliced and moved around. I couldn’t resist.

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